The product of the ob gene, leptin, is a hormone secreted by adipose tissue that acts in the hypothalamus to regulate the size of the body fat depot. Its central administration has been shown to decrease food intake and body weight, while favoring energy dissipation. As glucocorticoids are known to play a permissive role in the establishment and maintenance of obesity syndromes in rodents, it was hypothesized that they do so by restraining the effect of leptin. Leptin injected intracerebroventricularly as a bolus of 3 microg in normal rats induced modest reductions in body weight and food intake. In marked contrast, the same dose of leptin had very potent and long-lasting effects in decreasing both body weight and food intake when administered to adrenalectomized rats. Further, glucocorticoid supplementation of adrenalectomized rats dose-dependently inhibited these potent effects of leptin. These data suggest that glucocorticoids play a key inhibitory role in the action of leptin. Under normal conditions, this inhibitory influence of glucocorticoids may prevent lasting hypophagia. In obesity with degrees of hypercorticism, it may contribute to "leptin resistance," whose etiology is still little understood.